One of the hazards of a bulging perfume cabinet is how hard it can be to justify buying another bottle, especially when you know you already have a few bottles from the same fragrance family. That’s my dilemma with Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque. Since Cuir Mauresque became available in the United States last year, my fingers have wavered over the “add to shopping cart” button many a time. I tell myself Cuir Mauresque is special — warm and cozy, intimate and spicy, different from my other leathers. Meanwhile, Caron Tabac Blond, Lancôme Cuir de Lancôme, Bvlgari Black, Robert Piguet Bandit, Christian Dior Diorling, and probably some others I’m forgetting languish as they wait their turn in the fragrance rotation. What’s a girl to do?
Serge Lutens launched Cuir Mauresque in 1996 as one of its non-export, bell jar “exclusives” (as opposed to the export line in the rectangular bottle). In 2010, Cuir Mauresque (“moorish leather”) joined the export line for a limited edition run. Perfumer Christopher Sheldrake developed Cuir Mauresque, and its notes include mandarin peel, orange blossom, burnt styrax, incense, cinnamon, nutmeg, amber, myrrh, cumin, musk, cedar, and civet.
Like many of the Serge Lutens fragrances, Cuir Mauresque kicks off with a surprising note that offers a freaky insight into the rest of the fragrance. For Tubéreuse Criminelle, for instance, that note smells almost like gasoline, and once you’ve smelled it you see tuberose a whole different way. For Cuir Mauresque, the note is a sweet plastic that mingles with the fragrance’s leather to remind me of a 1970s faux patent leather purse. The thing is, the petroleum side of plastic’s smell aligns with the motor oil aspects of leather. It makes sense.
Lest you suspect Cuir Mauresque is headed down a path of discos, bondage, and Tupperware, think again. Cuir Mauresque warms into one of the snuggliest, most welcoming leather fragrances I’ve worn. Its mandarin peel and orange blossom work the way citrus does in baking rather. They keep the composition from cloying but definitely aren’t tart or bracing. The spices — and I’d include cardamom with the listed cinnamon and nutmeg — feel so obviously right with the medium-weight leather. Cumin and musk are just barely noticeable, but they push Cuir Mauresque away from bundt cake toward skin. Warm, luxurious, grandpa-cardigan-wearing skin — that is, if your grandpa has worn his shape into his Bugatti’s leather seats and has publishers clamoring for his memoir.
Cuir Mauresque is persistent, but it’s a fairly quiet scent. I’d put its sillage at low to moderate. After about five hours on my skin, the leather and spice disappear, replaced with amber, vanilla, and a hint of patchouli. I wouldn’t hesitate to wear it at the office once the top notes give way to the leathery heart of the fragrance. To me, it would be sexy and comfortable on men or women.
When I think of the man Serge Lutens, in my mind he is wearing Cuir Mauresque. I don’t know Serge Lutens at all, but from his cryptic interviews and Confucius-like quotes, I imagine on first impression he might seem exotic and difficult to fathom. It would be hard to know what to say or how to respond to him. As you get to know him, though, surely his friendly, easy, but continually fascinating side comes out. Kind of like Cuir Mauresque.
If you are looking for a leather fragrance, you might want to give Cuir Mauresque a try. If, like me, you already have plenty of leather fragrances — well, good luck. I still can’t decide.
Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque Eau de Parfum is available as a 75 ml bell jar at the Paris Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido for 120€, or, for a limited time, as a 50 ml export in the rectangular spray bottle for $140. For buying information, see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses.